Well, I hope everyone enjoyed their pre-release experience this past weekend. I know I had a ton of fun and thought the new set was pretty cool. I have heard a lot of people complain about the set because it won’t shake up Standard very much, but that doesn’t mean the set isn’t fun. I really enjoyed my pre-release and feel like the set is going to be lots of fun in a Limited format and could do some interesting things in Constructed.
Now, going into the event I really didn’t know what to expect. I had looked over the spoiler a bit and sort of had an idea of what things would look like, but I wasn’t able to get a sense for the best archetypes, what were the sneaky powerful commons and uncommons that can mould a game, or even if the Elder Dinosaurs were any good. So, on Saturday morning, when I opened up my pre-release kit I wasn’t sure what I would find.
Turns out that somebody down there at Wizards likes me and gave me a late Christmas present. My pool just about made itself into a deck with very little help from me. It started with my promo, Ghalta, Primal Hunger. Now, if you know me, you know that I always have a sweet spot for enormous Green monsters and here is no different. A 12/12 with Trample was very alluring, but I wasn’t sure if the cost reduction mechanic stapled to it would be good enough to play. I wasn’t married to it, but it certainly was a darn good reason to be playing Green.
Next I saw not one, but TWO Hadana’s Climb (one in foil) and so now I was at 3 on colour rare cards. The next pack had Jace, Cunning Castaway meaning that I now had 4 rares across these same two colours. So, I looked closely at my pool and asked myself the following question: Do I have a merfolk deck in this pool?
The answer was a resounding yes with 10 very playable Merfolk in my pool and a couple of more that I could side in for curve considerations should a matchup prove very fast. I was set. To make matters more appealing, I had 6 fliers, Cobbled Wings to give anything else flying, and a pair of Enchantment/Legendary lands that gave my team some ridiculous inevitably. Essentially my deck was extremely hard to block, if left unchecked could grow out of control, and had about as big a top end as I could find. My plan B, should I be unable to resolve any of my big bombs, was to cast Strength of the Pack as an Overrun sort of effect and try and slam my opponent that way. I was a little leary of the lack of interaction with my opponent because I only had the one removal spell, but I figured that if I could land 2 drops, cast Hadana’s Climb and pump my dude on Turn 3 and turn up the heat then I would be in the driver’s seat.
Here’s the List:
G/U Merfolk (Rivals of Ixalan pre-release) 3-0-1
2 X Shaper Apprentice
2 X Spire Winder
Soul of the Rapids
Secrets of the Golden City
Hunt the Weak
Strength of the Pack
2 X Hadana’s Climb
Jace, Cunning Castaway
How did my deck fare? Wow…it was scary good. In Match one I played my friend David. David was on a Bant Merfolk game plan splashing white for some much needed removal. In Game 1 he stumbled on his mana while I went Shaper Apprentice, into Hadana’s Climb on Turn 3, into Spire Winder on 4, and the beat down was on. He couldn’t block the fliers, they all grew to ridiculous sizes and before he landed a 4th land he was dead. Game 2 I drew 5 lands and a pair of 5 drops. All I needed were a couple of 2 drops off the top of my deck and I was in good shape. Instead I drew 2 more five drops. Dave’s deck came alive and he was backed up with key pieces of removal. I ended losing and not having enough answers. Game 3 was a carbon copy of Game 1 except I resolved Ghalta and made her fly for the killing stroke meaning Dave got squashed.
Match 2 was against a guy named Ethan who I have played before and he drubbed me soundly. However, on this day I was the one who came out on top. Game 1 he showed a White/Red deck and I figured I was in store for a fast Aggro match up. Instead, he didn’t cast a creature on turns 1,2 or 3 and resolved Trove of Temptation on Turn 4. Meanwhile, I was busy dropping creatures, another Hadana’s Climb, and punishing the durdle deck. Game 2 was a little better for him and he built an early presence, but couldn’t leverage it to much advantage. We stalled out, but Hadana’s Climb ensured that I could turn the tide and he was very much on the back foot. A 6/7 flying Thrashing Brontodon launched by The Winged Temple of Orazca sealed the deal and left me a very easy 2-0.
Match 3 was against another guy who I’ve played in the past (and he’s beaten me soundly too). He too was on the U/G Merfolk plan, but he was missing the ridiculous top end. In Game 1 he stumbled on his mana while my deck curved out into an easy Shaper Apprentice on T2, Hadana’s Climb on T3, and Merfolk Branchwalker and another Shaper Apprentice on T4. So, I had a full board, an active Enchantment, and I revealed Ghalta off the Explore trigger. I was in a good position and my opponent was in serious trouble. He managed to counter my Ghalta because he knew that I had it, but I was more impressed that the cost reduction mechanic even allowed me to try and cast a 12/12 dino on Turn 5! He died shortly thereafter and we moved to game 2. Game 2 went no better for him except he was able to build an early board state to at least have some blockers. My Thrashing Brontodon held the ground and was further backed up with a Hadana’s Climb . I built out my board and on Turn 6, when he had a single Blue mana showing, I was slammed my Ghalta and was able to flip the Enchantment into The Winged Temple of Orazca. So, the next turn I gleefully sent my 12/12 trampling dino through the air and knocked my opponent out in a single turn. I was 3-0 and tied for the lead.
Match 4 was an intentional draw. There were 7 prize packs for First place and 5 for 2nd, so the other guy and I decided it would be fine to just draw and split. There was little to be gained, plus I didn’t really want to face down his Tetzimoc, Primal Death because he had been using it all day to wipe out his opponents. I left with a very happy 3-0-1 record and was quite happy to collect my winnings.
What did I learn from the day? First off, Ghalta is very playable. That cost reduction mechanic is very easy to trigger and you can see it as early as turn 4 or 5 with no trouble at all.
Second, Hadana’s Climb is the truth. At three mana it can come down at a stage where you can set it up and then give yourself ridiculous inevitability. All it needs to synergize with is creatures and it kind of feels like you are in the process of building your own bomb. It just keeps dumping +1/+1 counters on your stuff and, when you’re ready, you can flip it and smash your opponent to pieces. Having a pair was disgusting, but it meant I could reliably find one early in the game and immediately have my opponent under pressure.
Third, the Thrashing Brontodon was very good. Having a 3/4 come down on Turn 3 immediately holds the ground and makes it very difficult to fight through. The fact that I could turn my Brontodon into a massive bomb was a nice perk too. The flexibility to destroy a pesky artifact or enchantment was useful, but was not needed.
Lastly, Ascend was surprisingly easy to trigger and the benefits were indeed sizeable. Secrets of the Golden City , for example, yielded an extra card very readily and was very useful. I would have run the card regardless because for 3 mana it is close to a Divination and that would have warranted it a spot, but the fact that it can draw you 3 cards in some spots is a very powerful upgrade. I didn’t skew my deck much in order to trigger the Ascend but it always surprised me how easily it turned on. It is going to prove to be an issue in EDH where Ascend will be everywhere and the most busted cards will get extensive play. I am predicting Vona’s Hunger is likely high on that list.
On the whole, the set was fun and I really enjoyed my day. The fact that my deck was very strong also helped because I do enjoy winning. Much as I play casually, I do periodically like to try to see if I can win and today was a nice treat. I’m looking forward to the rest of the set for my own personal EDH purposes, but I am also optimistic that some of those big scary dinos are going to really shake up standard and send Energy decks packing. I’m not convinced, but it is a nice thought.
I hope everyone enjoyed their pre-release experience and had a fun day out. I find they are always a great way to meet new people and just have some fun with the new cards. So, if you haven’t tried it, I would suggest you do soon. Thanks for stopping by and having a read and be sure to check back again for another Casual Encounter.